At Tuesday's preview performance of the Mississippi Bend Players' The Santaland Diaries at Augustana College, I had everything I needed for a respite from the relentless, forced holiday cheer outside. I had my seat in a cozy venue among a small passel of students revved up for their imminent academic break. I had a play by David Sedaris, one of my favorite writers. I had another lovely (and festively sparkly) Augustana set to gaze at, this one by technical director and scenic/lighting designer Mark Lohman. I had Keenan Odenkirk, one of my favorite actors. I had my cynical holiday exasperation dialed up to eight. It was the perfect storm.
From the moment I entered the QC Theatre Workshop for Friday's opening-night performance of The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, my head was in a different place than ever before – literally, as the stage and the seating had swapped places since my last visit. From the moment the final spotlight died, my head has been in a different place figuratively. Edward Albee's show, which debuted on Broadway in 2002 and won that year's Tony for Best Play, stirred thoughts and ideas that I'm still pondering.
Move over Romeo and Juliet – there are new star-crossed lovers in town. The QC Theatre Workshop’s latest production, Gruesome Playground Injuries, explores both pain and possibility in a tale of lifelong friendship and love.
The Mississippi Bend Players' third season opened on Friday with Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues, a tribute to our military veterans and all the brave men and women who currently serve this great country. This second installment in Simon's semi-autobiographical comedic trilogy – one that begins with Brighton Beach Memoirs and concludes with Broadway Bound – had me rifling through my purse to find a tissue to dry my eyes, given that they were watering so much from laughter. Director and St. Ambrose University theatre professor Cory Johnson, who also gave us MBP's Brighton Beach in 2017, delivered a hilarious show that was not only extremely funny, but touched on some very serious subject matter.
"All for one and one for all!" This is the heartfelt cry and motto of the famously swashbuckling musketeers that echoed throughout the Brunner Theatre Center auditorium in January 25's opening-night performance. Swordplay abounded as Augustana College's company of actors and stage crew presented the adventurous tales of playwright Ken Ludwig's The Three Musketeers, and the sword fights choreographed by director Jeff Coussens were superbly done, making for quite a lively evening.
Hearings. Depositions. Victims. Accusers. Lies. I am not talking about our recent news cycle, but rather Augustana College’s production of The Crucible. When director Jennifer Popple decided to set her show in the unspecific future, she couldn’t possibly have guessed that 2018, without even trying, would give the play such abundant relevance.
When you see a show and your biggest “complaint” was that the wine was too purple, you know you’ve seen something special. The Mississippi Bend Players have brought their A-game to the stage with the world premiere of Beginner’s Luck, a comedy that's not afraid to ask the big question “What do you want from life?” and manages to be completely satisfying without actually delivering a resolution.
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